Music Reviews
Jump Rope Gazers

The Beths Jump Rope Gazers

(Carpark) Rating - 8/10

Someone once claimed that if you want to play in Texas you better have a fiddle in the band. Well, if you want to play in Auckland, New Zealand’s The Beths, you had better be able to sing. If that includes singing backup on a song about the Roman god of war, you had better sing about that too and like you mean it. No one can accuse the members of the Elizabeth Stokes-led band of not putting in the work, and on Jump Rope Gazers, they are fully committed to their craft; new drummer, Tristan Deck, included. And aside from continuing their streak of power pop gold, the harmonies on display (including Stokes’ multi-tracked ones) are ravishing.

As stellar as the band’s blitzkrieg of a debut, Future Me, Hates Me, was, it turns out “Future Beth” also has also taken a moment to catch her breath. For every all-out basher here (Acrid and the aforementioned Mars, the God of War), some stunningly beautiful slow-burn ballads take their time unfolding. The first to appear is the midtempo title song, but early fans will be falling over themselves as Stokes’ voice takes center stage. The band gives Stokes plenty of room to wax nostalgic of the love that was always right in front of her trance-like gaze: “I remember watching the waves rolling in, numbered in the thousands.” If there is any sense at the beginning of Do You Want Me Now that the group has taken a maudlin misstep, just wait for the second chorus to arrive. The layering in of multitudes of “we can talk about it” and “I won’t be mad about it” are inspired moments that beg for endless repetitions. The last of the slower songs, You Are a Beam Of Light, is just as effective and allows for some of Stokes’ most empathetic poetry: “Lightning strikes, from heights, and finds the tallest spires.” 

Clearly, Stokes and her returning bandmates (Jonathan Pearce (guitar/producer) and Benjamin Sinclair (bass)) have found the formula to reel off a couple albums' worth of exceptional tunes. And if that was an easy thing to do, then lots more bands would be spinning out the same. If it’s hard to discern that Stokes has herself and her subjects tied up in anxious knots on easy-to-love singles like I’m Not Getting Excited and the following Dying to Believe, it’s understandable. Such joyous romps could hardly be expected to be covered over deep wells of angst. That makes the quieter moments and gentler harmonies of Jump Rope Gazers all the more revealing, but no less addictive than their buzzed-up bookends. Quiet or not, and despite the jazz-trained musicianship on display, Pearce’s production never buries the vocals—Stokes’ or anyone else’s for that matter. In The Beths’ case, their most valuable instruments are the ones they were born with—and that shines through every step of the way.